Mahoning Update

As I noted in my last post, the 72-year-old, historic Mahoning Drive-in in Lehighton, PA was in danger of closing after an energy company was about to buy the land, with plans to build a solar farm. Well, good news! The Mahoning Drive-in is staying open. The company, Green Skies, has pulled out of the deal and the Mahoning is safe. Further, the owner of the land has agreed to sell it to the drive-in operators. Talk about a storybook ending!

This was the company’s statement:

When Greenskies first discussed leasing the Mahoning Drive-In Theater property from the landowner more than six months ago, we were not aware of the cultural significance and nostalgic value the theater represented. We now recognize the importance of the Mahoning Drive-in to the community of Lehighton and film enthusiasts far and wide. We are engaging with the theater operator and the landowner to resolve the concerns of all the parties involved.”GREENSKIES CLEAN ENERGY

Kudos to the Green Skies for doing the right thing, and now the Drive-in lives to see another day and most likely, many years. It’s been a success story during the pandemic, and this is a fitting chapter to its long and storied history.

The Mahoning Needs Your Help

My fiance and I discovered the Mahoning Drive-in in Lehighton, PA about three years ago during their Universal Monster Mash weekend. We immediately fell in love with the place, including the beautiful farmland surrounding the venue to the fact they’re the only drive-in that plays 35 mm film. Since 2020, the Mahoning has recieved national press, including this article in the NYT from last week. It’s a positive story about how the Mahoning has survived and even thrived during the pandemic, as people seek safe forms of entertainment. Beyond that, though, the Mahoning has fostered a unique community at a time when people really need it. Movie lovers travel from well beyond NEPA to visit this place, and it’s been an economic boon to the greater areas of Jim Thorpe and Lehighton This weekend’s event, for instance, Joe Bob’s Jamboree, crashed the ticket site a few months ago. That’s how popular this drive-in and its events have become. The Mahoning is the type of place where you befriend people in the car next to you, and how often does something like that happen anymore?

Now, however, the 72-year-old drive-in is in danger of closing because a company wants to build a solar farm on the property. However, the staff (larely volunteer) has vowed to fight and needs help. This video explains what you can do:

Save The Mahoning Drive-In Theater on Vimeo

Further, if you’ve been to the drive-in, or if you just want to preserve this historic landmark, you can share your support on social media and use the hashtags #SavetheMahoning, #GreenSkiesCleanEnergy, and #CFdevelopmentPenn. You can also access the company’s website here and leave a comment. Perhaps most importantly, if you’re local, consider joining the rally on August 3 at 7 pm that Virgil mentions in the video. This will determine whether or not the township will allow the company to proceed with the solar farm and grant the accomodations they need.

I’m all for green energy, and we desperately need to address the climate crisis, but as a resident of PA, I know there is plenty of land available in our state that can fit a solar farm without tearing down this drive-in.

Damn the man, save the empire!

Well, here it is- the Halloween Kills trailer!

This week was an eventful one for horror fans. First, the second trailer for Nia DaCosta’s Candyman dropped mid-week, and by the end of the week, Universal/Blumhouse released the new trailer for Halloween Kills, the sequel to Halloween 2018. Click here for an excellent breakdown of that Candyman trailer, written by Dani Bethea. Meanwhile, here are my initial thoughts on the Halloween Kills trailer (see below the link to the trailer).

  • The film seemingly picks up right where 2018 left off. The first shot of the new trailer shows Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) with her daugther and granddaugther in toe, fleeing from the burning house where they “killed” Michael in the last film. The trio says, “no, no, no,” as firetrucks and amublances rush to the scene. Laurie hollers, “Let it burn!” This is likely to be an emotional opening.
  • The trailer then cuts to Michael standing on the proch, flames roaring behind him. It’s a beautiful, cinematic scene, especially the middle-shot with his mask center frame. From there, Michael kills each firefigther one by one fairly easily.
  • This is going to be a bloody, gory film. That scene with the firefigthers indicates such, along with some other kills shown in the trailer, specifically one featuring at least three-four victims (teens maybe?) wearing Silver Shamrock masks (nice nod to Halloween 3)!
  • Laurie’s family finally believes her. Much of Halloween 2018 was about Laurie’s trauma from the intiial film and her family dismissing her pain. But now, her granddauther, Allyson (Andi Matichak), says, “The boogeyman is real. My grandmother was right.”
  • Echoes of Halloween 2, maybe? It’s already been stated, and it’s clear in the trailer, that at least part of Halloween Kills will take place in a hospital. We see Laurie Strode in a white gown. Will the entire film mainly take place in a hospital like Halloween 2? Judging by the trailer, it seems unlikely, but still, it’s a nice nod to Halloween 2.
  • Michael becomes the hunted. The second half of the trailer focuses on the town coming together, wielding shotguns, ready to hunt down Michael, led by Laurie Strode.
  • The return of some OG characters. It’s already been stated that Tommy Doyle and Lindsey Wallace (the charming kids Laurie babysat in the first film) will return for this sequel. Their characters are likely to feed into the storyline about a town’s collective trauma and its need to defeat the boogeyman.

Overall, it looks like Halloween Kills is going to be a fun, bloody good time. If there’s anything you noticed in the trailer, feel free to comment! Here’s to counting down until October.

George A. Romero’s The Amusement Park

Believe it or not, in 2021, we’re going to have a never-before-seen Ceorge A. Romero movie. That film is The Amusement Park, shot in 1973 for the Luterhan Society as a means to raise awareness about elderly abuse. The film was lost for years but recently restored and rediscovered thanks to the George A. Romero Foundation and IndieCollect. Shot between Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead, the 53-minute-long film debuts on Shudder on June 8.

There are no zombies in this one, but it’s on par with some of the most terrifying films the master of horror has ever directed. The amusement park concept stands as a terrifying and surreal allegory about the way we abuse the elderly. Lincoln Maazel’s nameless character suffers one abuse after another, from ticket vendors, to a biker gang, to dismissive youth who walk by as he writhes on the ground in pain. No supernatural elements are needed in this nightmareish vision of a careless and cruel society. Romero has always presented humans as worse than the monster, and this certainly rings true here.

For more of my thoughts on the film, check out my review for Signal Horizon.

Unearthing a Lost Found Footage Gem: The Last Horror Movie

I admit that I’ve never heard of The Last Horror Movie until I saw it on a list of potential assignments for Signal Horizon Magazine. For whatever reason, the movie didn’t catch much buzz during the 2000s found footage boom that followed the massive success of The Blair Witch Project (1999). I confess that I’m not as crazy about the subgenre as some other fans, but I was equally disturbed and fascinated by The Last Horror Movie.

Directed by Julian Richards, the film primarily features one character, Max (Kevin Howarth), a serial killer who films his murders over horror movie rentals. Much of the movie plays out like a snuff film, and though that’s certainly uncomfortable, the real way the film disturbs is through its commentary on spectatorship. Several times, Max asks the audience why they keep watching, and as the film becomes more and more brutal, we, as viewers, have to stop and ponder why we stay tuned in. Why not shut it off? Do we also have lust for on-screen violence? Max has some warped logic, but he’s likeable in an odd way, sort of like Henry (Michael Rooker) from Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. That’s another reason why The Last Horror Movie is effective. Like Henry, it presents us with a character who comes across as generally normal, at least at first.

It’s difficult to find the film on any major streaming platforms, and it hasn’t gotten a proper physical media release in some time. That’s a shame. It stands a cut above most of the found footage films from that era.

For more of my thoughts on The Last Horror Movie, please check out my articles over at Signal Horizon.

Violation: A Brutal and Subversive Revenge Tale

Picture

The horror genre continues to redefine itself in the age of #MeToo and the 21st Century, rewriting old tropes, specifically the rape/revenge subgenre. I’m thinking of movies like M.F.A. (2017), Revenge, and to some extent, Promising Young Woman (2020). The latest is Violation, which released late last week on Shudder after its world premiere at Sundance earlier this year. The general premise is familiar for the subgenre. A young woman, Miriam (Madeleine Sims-Fewer), is raped by her sister’s husband. However, where the film goes from there is a wild, brutal affair, one that challenges expectations and also underscores the fallout and PTSD the protagonist endures after the rape and subsequent vengeance. Further, Violation makes a spectacle of the male, a reversal of standard horror rules.

Violation is a film I keep thinking about weeks after I first saw it and reviewed it for HorrOrigins (you can read the full review here). It’s another film that marks a change in the subgenre and an exciting future, filled with possibilities of what the genre can be when more women get behind the camera (the film was co-directed by Sims-Fewer and Dusty Mancinelli). Violation undoes traditional horror spectacle, while focusing mostly not on the blood and revenge, but rather the aftermath.

For the Gothic Literature Fan…

8 Modern Gothic Mysteries to Read Now ‹ CrimeReads

In honor of the wild success of Netflix’s “The Haunting of Bly Manor” and prior to that, “The Haunting of Hill House,” I teamed up with Laura Kemmerer, one of the founders of What Sleeps Beneath, to offer a Gothic reading list! We tried to offer a mix of well-known and lesser known authors, and if we chose familiar authors, we tried to pick works lesser known.

Click here to check out our recommendation list!

Reimagining Frankenstein

Courtesy of Shudder

I wanted to share this interview that I did with Nora Unkel for Signal Horizon Magazine. Unkel directed the Shudder exclusive A Nightmare Wakes, a retelling of the Frankenstein creation story and Mary Shelley’s life. It’s the first film I can think of that places the 19th Century female author front and center of the Frankenstein story, including her turbulent relationship with Percy and the struggles she had as a female writer.

Enjoy!

A Few Updates

Promising Young Woman Guide to Release Date, Cast News and Spoilers
Photo Courtesy of Focus Features

I wanted to share a few pieces that I’ve had published recently. The first is an article about Promising Young Woman, a film that I keep thinking about days after I’ve seen it, especially its haunting and (maybe?) problematic ending. The film stars Carey Mulligan as Cassandra, a med school drop-out who seeks vengeance against men from a traumatic event in her past. We’ve seen plenty of female revenge films prior, but there’s something about this film and Mulligan’s performance that stands out. My article for Signal Horizon explores toxic masculinity and trauma in the film. You can read it here.

Additionally, I wrote about one of my favorite films from last year, After Midnight, for Signal Horizon. You can read that article here. After Midnight is set to drop on Shudder in the coming weeks. Make sure to see it if you have that streaming service.

Hunted: A Ho-Hum Tale of Revenge

It’s a new year, and with that, the streaming service Shudder is dropping 11 new movies across 11 weeks. The first is Hunted, a wild take on Little Red Riding Hood directed and written by Vincent Paronnaud. The film has some stellar cinematography and imagery, but it doesn’t do anything new with the female revenge subgenre and pales in comparison to similar films like Revenge (2017) and The Nightingale (2019).

Photo Courtesy of Charade Films

Eve (Lucie Debay) is a site manager who needs an escape from her overbearing boss, so she wanders into a seedy bar where she has to deal with an overly aggressive man who insists on buying her drink, most likely expecting sex in return. Eve shoots him down and is assisted by “the guy” (Arieh Worthalter), a misogynist who lures Eve into his car, and with the help of his accomplice (Ciaran O’Brien), kidnaps her. After an accident, Eve escapes into the woods and the rest of the film becomes a hunt and chase scenario.

The fairy tale concept works well. Fairy tales have always had a dark underbelly. Eve’s red winter coat aligns her even more with the Little Red Riding Hood character, but instead of being chased by a big bad wolf, she’s chased by two men. As the tag line of the film says, “The company of wolves is better than that of man.”

Debay gives a strong performance through and through. It’s a delight to see her channel her anger and become the hunter with the help of the woods. Worthalter makes for a good villain, a deplorable brute who gets off by watching sexist snuff films he recorded. The imagery and cinematography, including sweeping shots of the woods and close-ups of wolves and snakes, are another strength.

The film’s main issue is that it doesn’t do anything different with the female revenge subgenre and add to the conversation. We’ve seen this plot several times before, and while it’s always great to see women kicking ass against gross men, there’s nothing ground-breaking here. The idea of nature linking with female energy to topple a hostile man has also been done before, most recently in Coralie Fargeat’s brilliant Revenge. Just replace the desert with the forest in this case.

Watch the trailer for Hunted below:

HUNTED Official Trailer (2021) – YouTube

Hunted is worth the watch, especially for Debay’s performance and the visuals, but by the end of the year, it’s not likely this film will really register.

Keep an eye out for some of the other films Shudder will be releasing early this year, namely After Midnight, Lucky, and the Dark and the Wicked.